Psoriasis is a systematic skin disease that affects up to eight million people in the USA alone. Around 2-3 percent of the world population (125 million people) suffer from the same issue. These statistics are pretty alarming, considering that psoriasis has no cure. A person who has it can only do so much to ease the symptoms to ensure that the disease won’t affect their quality of life.
There are many treatments that are successfully used for managing psoriasis. One of those methods includes red light therapy also known as low-level laser therapy. Using red light therapy for psoriasis has been shown to be effective for reducing inflammation, itchiness and speed up skin regeneration.
In this article, we dive deep into psoriasis symptoms and treatments and explain how red light therapy can help the condition.
What Exactly is Psoriasis?
Psoriasis is a chronic skin condition during which your body multiplies skin cells ten times more rapidly than normal. Healthy skin cells slowly grow and rise on the surface. In about a month, the old cells shed and leave place for new ones. In psoriasis patients, the lifespan of a cell is just a few days. The increased cell production creates bumpy red patches that are often covered with white-silver scales.
Most often, psoriasis presents itself on the scalp, knees, elbows, and lower back. Because these body parts are not readily visible, these spots may be mistaken for dry skin patches or irritation.
This disease usually pops up in early adulthood and affects just a few areas. However, in severe cases, psoriasis can cover more significant parts of the body and face. What’s more, red bumps are not permanently present on the skin. They come and go from time to time but, unfortunately, never disappear. So keeping the condition under supervision is always necessary.
What Causes Psoriasis?
Scientists are not entirely sure what is the exact cause of this disease. In fact, this is the reason that makes the search for the cure so hard. However, years of research revealed that psoriasis is mainly linked to the immune system and genetics.
Let’s look into these more closely:
Psoriasis is considered to be an autoimmune disease. This means that the body is attacking itself, mistakenly targeting healthy tissue or organs. In psoriasis cases, white blood cells strike healthy skin cells, thinking that there’s bacteria or infection that needs to be eliminated. In reality, the epidermis that covers the body is the one getting the hit. As a result, skin cell production goes to overdrive and creates red patches.
Genetic factors play an important role in psoriasis as well. If you have a family member with the disease, you may develop it as well. There’s approximately a 2-3 percent probability that genes that trigger psoriasis will actually cause the disease to flare up.
Even though scientists are not quite sure what causes psoriasis, some environmental and physical factors may encourage it. The common psoriasis triggers include:
- A large amounts of alcohol intake;
- Cold climates;
- Smoking Cigarettes;
- Autoimmune disorders, such as HIV or rheumatoid arthritis;
- Infections that weaken the immune system;
- Skin injuries;
- Certain medications (lithium, beta-blockers, antimalarial drugs, etc.)
Actual triggers of the condition vary from person to person. The best practice for determining what promotes psoriasis in your case is consulting the doctor. A professional healthcare provider will help you pinpoint the possible triggers and offer the best course of action to ease symptoms.
Speaking of which, let’s take a look at common symptoms and diagnosis for psoriasis.
Psoriasis Symptoms and Diagnosis
Psoriasis symptoms vary depending on the type of the disease. The most common variety is plaque psoriasis, which is associated with patchy red bumps on the skin. The psoriasis spots appear in different places. If you don’t apply treatment, these patches may grow in size, merge and cover a larger part of the body. In severe cases, plaque psoriasis may cause itching, pain, swelling, and even bleeding.
Diagnosing psoriasis can be a bit tricky because symptoms are very similar to eczema at the beginning stages of the disease. The only reliable way of diagnosing psoriasis is a skin biopsy. The doctor will remove the small tissue from the spots and send it for examination.
Conventional Psoriasis Treatments
Fortunately, there are many approaches for managing and easing psoriasis flare-ups. Effective topical treatments include vitamin D analogs, vitamin A derivatives (retinoids), salicylic acid, rich moisturizers.
The doctor may prescribe oral medications such as methotrexate, cyclosporine (Sandimmune), biologics, and retinoids to promote quicker healing. These meds help your immune system power through and eliminate psoriasis symptoms.
UVB phototherapy is another standard treatment for psoriasis. These types of rays are found in natural sunlight. UVB penetrates the skin and slows the growth of affected cells. UVB therapy can be obtained either at the doctor’s office or at home.
However, when it comes to UVB rays, adverse effects should be mentioned as well. It is a well-known fact that UVB rays are extremely harmful to the skin as they cause premature aging (1). Therefore, the positive results that UVB rays have on psoriasis, may come at costs.
Is Red Light Therapy For Psoriasis Effective?
Now that we’ve reinforced our knowledge of psoriasis let’s get to the main topic – the relationship between psoriasis and red light therapy.
For those who are not familiar with this treatment method, red light therapy is exposure to controlled levels of red light wavelengths. This type of light wave is characterized by high penetration. Red light particles reach deep into the skin and optimize cellular functions. Compared to UVB phototherapy, red light particles penetrate tissue 2 times more deeply, having more profound benefits.
Continous RLT treatment has been proven to be an effective treatment for psoriasis symptoms. A study conducted in 2011 examined psoriasis patients that went through four weeks of red light treatments. The participants used 10 percent salicylic acid during the trial as well. The results demonstrated that red light therapy is effective for promoting quicker healing of plaques (2).
The same study measured the effects of blue light therapy on psoriasis. It turns out that this type of phototherapy can be beneficial for reducing redness and helping repair skin tissue.
Another recent study investigated the effectiveness of the combination of visible red light and near-infrared wavelengths to treat recalcitrant psoriasis. The research lasted for 5 weeks and included exposing participants to RLT 2-20 minutes each session. The results showed that red light therapy is a suitable treatment method for psoriasis patients with no adverse side effects (3).
How Does Red Light Therapy Help Psoriasis?
As we’ve already mentioned, red light therapy has the benefit of optimizing cellular function. This is achieved by increasing mitochondrial metabolism – production of ATP (a molecule that carries cellular energy) is boosted, giving our cells more resources for carrying out their functions. This leads to enhancing a whole cascade of processes in our bodies.
Here’s how red light therapy can help with psoriasis:
Inflammation is an unavoidable part of psoriasis. As this disease tricks the immune system to fight healthy skin cells, our body tries to fight back, triggering inflammation. Red light therapy has been known to help eliminate inflammation for a long time now.
Red light therapy supplies our cells with an increased amount of energy. Because of this, RLT has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. This is vital for speeding up the recovery process of psoriasis spots.
A randomized controlled trial observed post-surgical recovery of two focus groups – one was treated with red light and another was given placebo treatment. After a few weeks, scientists compared the healing process of these two groups. Results demonstrated that the participants that were treated with red light therapy experienced less pain and inflammation (4).
Forming New Blood Vessels
Red light therapy aids in forming new blood vessels. This allows our body to supply sufficient amounts of oxygen and nutrients to psoriasis-affected areas. As a result, skin tissue recovers much faster. What’s even better is that healthy and robust cells emerge in place of compromised tissue.
Increasing Collagen & Fibroblasts
An extensive study was determined to identify red light therapy’s effectiveness for various concerns. The results indicated that red light particles boost the secretion of essential proteins that make up the skin tissue (5).
Increased collagen and fibroblasts promote quick skin rejuvenation and promote a smoother healthier appearance. These properties are vital for psoriasis patients as red patches often leave a bumpy texture for some time after flare-ups heal.
How Effective Is Light Therapy For Psoriasis?
Using red light therapy for psoriasis can be quite effective if you follow a consistent routine. Start introducing your skin to RLT slowly to rule out the sensitivity. If 2-3 minutes of red light exposure doesn’t cause any adverse effects, you can increase the longevity and frequency of red light treatments.
Research indicates that light therapy helps 50 to 90 out of 100 people who are fighting psoriasis ease or eliminate flare-ups (6).
How Long Does It Take For Light Therapy To Work On Psoriasis?
To maximize red light therapy benefits for psoriasis, specialists recommend sticking to 5-15 minute sessions, 3-5 times a week for the first month. By that time, you should see significant improvement in your skin condition. After that, reduce treatment frequency by 2-3 times per week.
Keep in mind that psoriasis has no cure, so there is no way for red light therapy to help you get rid of the symptoms forever. However, RLT can help prevent flare-ups or decrease the severity of your condition. To achieve this, it is advised to get red light exposure one to two times a week. This way, you’ll be able to maintain results from intense RLT sessions and avoid worsening your condition.
Home Light Therapy For Psoriasis
Considering that psoriasis requires constant monitoring, getting red light therapy at a doctor’s office can be quite costly (a cost of a single procedure varies between $25-250). Therefore, it may be the most optimal solution to get your own red light therapy device.
In-home red light treatment panels are widely available in various sizes and functionalities. If you’re looking for a truly effective and reliable RLT device, we might have something in store for you.
nuYOU LED offers a great variety of red light therapy devices that provide medical-grade benefits from the comfort of your home. Our light panels are FDA-approved and listed as class II medical devices. What’s more, all of our light panels have powerful LEDs that produce light at a 30-degree beam angle that allows you to get consistent light even when you move away from the device.
In the psoriasis case, we recommend you aim for full-body devices. Our nuMAX 1200 will be a great addition to your treatment plan as it has very high coverage and allows you to target your whole body at the same time.
However, if you need a smaller or more budget-friendly RLT device, you can go for nuMAX 100, nuMAX 200, or nuMAX 300. Each of these devices has a modular design, meaning that they can be connected with each other and transformed into a full-body panel. So you can get started with one of our targeted devices and once you get comfortable, purchase another one to pair up with it.
Is RLT At Home For Psoriasis Safe?
Extensive studies that have been conducted around red light therapy didn’t identify any adverse effects associated with the treatment. Therefore, getting red light exposure at home is entirely safe. With that said, we recommend you get a professional opinion before starting RLT for psoriasis. Make sure you visit the doctor and ensure that red light exposure is the most optimal course of action for treating your individual condition.
- Singh RK, Lee KM, Jose MV, Nakamura M, Ucmak D, Farahnik B, Abrouk M, Zhu TH, Bhutani T, Liao W. The Patient’s Guide to Psoriasis Treatment. Part 1: UVB Phototherapy. Dermatol Ther (Heidelb). 2016 Sep;6(3):307-13. doi: 10.1007/s13555-016-0129-2. Epub 2016 Jul 29. PMID: 27474029; PMCID: PMC4972735.
- Kleinpenning MM, Otero ME, van Erp PE, Gerritsen MJ, van de Kerkhof PC. Efficacy of blue light vs. red light in the treatment of psoriasis: a double-blind, randomized comparative study. J Eur Acad Dermatol Venereol. 2012 Feb;26(2):219-25. doi: 10.1111/j.1468-3083.2011.04039.x. Epub 2011 Mar 24. PMID: 21435024.
- Avci P, Gupta A, Sadasivam M, Vecchio D, Pam Z, Pam N, Hamblin MR. Low-level laser (light) therapy (LLLT) in skin: stimulating, healing, restoring. Semin Cutan Med Surg. 2013 Mar;32(1):41-52. PMID: 24049929; PMCID: PMC4126803.
- Langella LG, Casalechi HL, Tomazoni SS, Johnson DS, Albertini R, Pallotta RC, Marcos RL, de Carvalho PTC, Leal-Junior ECP. Photobiomodulation therapy (PBMT) on acute pain and inflammation in patients who underwent total hip arthroplasty-a randomized, triple-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial. Lasers Med Sci. 2018 Dec;33(9):1933-1940. doi: 10.1007/s10103-018-2558-x. Epub 2018 Jun 16. PMID: 29909435.
- Wunsch A, Matuschka K. A controlled trial to determine the efficacy of red and near-infrared light treatment in patient satisfaction, reduction of fine lines, wrinkles, skin roughness, and intradermal collagen density increase. Photomed Laser Surg. 2014 Feb;32(2):93-100. doi: 10.1089/pho.2013.3616. Epub 2013 Nov 28. PMID: 24286286; PMCID: PMC3926176.
- InformedHealth.org [Internet]. Cologne, Germany: Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care (IQWiG); 2006-. Does light therapy (phototherapy) help reduce psoriasis symptoms? 2017 May 18.